Balancing act

Babbling baby has become the soundtrack of my sanity these past few weeks (and no, I’m not a glutten for punishment).

Deciding to come back to work was agonizing. Thankfully I have a supportive boss and have been able to work out a schedule that allows me to be both a reporter and a mom. A chunk of my day is spent in the office and then I can fill in with extra hours making calls or writing from my kitchen table.

I worried I would feel like I wasn’t doing either job well and that I would be constantly distracted by the one while doing the other.

But having Baby Girl spend at least half of her day with me instead of at daycare means I don’t feel like I’m abandoning her.

The downside is that sometimes she gets vocal when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone on the phone – like yesterday when she sang away during two separate interviews.

I gave her a card and that entertained her for awhile as she tried to stretch it and eat it and had a lengthy conversation with it (I imagine she said things like: “Get in my mouth” and “Boy, you taste good”).

But the novelty quickly disappeared and she became frustrated (the card must have said “No, I will not get in your mouth”). Her cooing turned into the sounds that signal an impending major crying fit, which would have drowned out the voice of the person I was trying to interview.

Balancing her in my lap while I used my shoulder to hold my phone to my ear and typed notes wasn’t the most graceful thing I’ve ever done, but it got the job(s) finished. Neither person on the other end of the line minded Baby Girl’s noise either, or at least they said they didn’t. And I’m feeling accomplished for writing two stories and having time to read to Baby Girl in between interviews.

The other downside is that she likes to eat things, and by things I mean everything, including notes and my laptop screen. At least I know I have a smile built into my day ‘cause she sure is cute when she does it.

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Camp Invention at C.S. Porter this summer

It’s almost summer camp sign-up season. I’ll admit, I’m already freaking out about it a little bit. This will be the first summer both the kids will need to be in camps while their dad and I work (semi-)regular office hours.

There are SO MANY camps! Thankfully, each year the newspaper puts out a guide to summer camps. I understand the first summer camp tab will be out this Sunday, and the next comprehensive camp guide will come out on Thursday – a week from today.

Until then, here’s one camp to consider:
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Bozeman schools get longer day, shorter year. Should we?

Looks like Bozeman schools are going ahead with a new plan to add 10 minutes to each school day, meaning the overall school year will be six days shorter.

The biggest difference? Parents will no longer have to contend with weekly “early out” days. These days are the bane of parents who have to scramble to find kid care that covers these extra hours.

In Missoula, the early out days for Missoula County Public Schools are Thursdays. For elementary school kiddos (the ones who are young enough to absolutely require the presence of an adult outside of school hours), this means the school day ends at 2 p.m. each Thursday.

Which is actually kind of nice for some younger students, such as kindergartners, for whom the school day is already rather long.

Hmm. Should Missoula consider doing what Bozeman did? What do you think? What would be the pros and cons?

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Here’s hoping UM gives the go-ahead to a new infant care center

Well, shoot. Looks like that new infant care center at the University of Montana isn’t going to be available just yet.

I guess it’s a good thing that ASUM is putting it to a student vote. The students should get a say in how their money is spent, after all. I just hope the student body recognizes how important newborn daycare services are to those who use them – parents and babies alike.

The vast majority of students at UM aren’t parents, and they may not know what it’s like to take care of kiddos and a course load at the same time. I applaud those new parents who are furthering their educations, improving their job prospects and building a better life for their families.

And I vividly remember what it was like when I toted my own newborn around campus nine years ago. I started taking Willow to class with me when she was two weeks old. She came to interviews with me and she spent a lot of time in the grungy old Kaimin offices, building up her immunities. Thankfully, I had very understanding, very supportive professors.

Of course, there were times when I absolutely couldn’t have Willow with me. I usually managed to cobble together help from friends and family for a few hours at a time. But it was always a stressful, seat-of-the-pants type of arrangement – and it remained so until I landed a gig at the Missoulian. That’s when my schedule finally became regular and predictable enough to arrange for a regular daycare provider.

Let me tell you something: Daycare for children younger than 2 is nearly impossible to find in Missoula, let alone GOOD daycare.

All children, especially babies, need the best possible care. Student parents need to know their children are in good hands when they can’t be with them.

I hope UM students will keep this in mind when they vote this Spring.

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Course promises to teach child care providers how to teach children mealtime manners

You know how mealtimes can be kind of chaotic at home? Imagine what it’s like at your child’s day care.

Of course, if you’re the child care provider, you don’t have to imagine! ‘Cause you’re right there for every. single. meal.

And you might just be interested in this course:

Pass the Peaches – Beginner Level Course

Attention early childhood professionals – Are mealtimes in your program relaxed, pleasant, polite, and enjoyable? They can be! Learn strategies to make mealtimes a healthy, peaceful, AND nutritious part of your child care day. This class will meet from 6-8pm on Monday, January 27, 2014. This training is $10 and is worth 2 training hours.

Please pre-register by contacting Child Care Resources at 728-6446, or visit our website at www.childcareresources.org/registration.

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Child care is expensive! Find out if you qualify for a subsidy

The following is a public service announcement sent out from the good folks at Child Care Resources.

Need help paying for child care?  Contact Child Care Resources to apply for a scholarship.  There are new higher income guidelines which mean more families are eligible.  To qualify, a family of three can earn up to $2,386 per month.  To see if you qualify, contact Child Care Resources at 406-728-6446 or go online to childcareresource.org.

Hey, sounds like it’s worth a call to me!

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ASUM Child Care accepting children of staff; it’s about time!

At long last! Children of University of Montana employees are – for the first time in 40 years – eligible for on-campus day care through ASUM (Associated Students of the University of Montana) Child Care.

UM students have always been able to enroll their kids in the popular program, and this move will only help the university become more family friendly.

Did I say popular? I seem to recall the program once had a waiting list. This was years ago, however – and in any case, ASUM Child Care now has a lot of space to fill, according to the story in today’s Missoulian:

But with less than a month before the start of classes, overall enrollment at the ASUM day care is still down slightly and organizers are concerned about having to close one of the five centers that serve children ages 18 months to 6 years if more slots are not filled.

They’re encouraging students attending classes in the fall who are interested in on-campus day care to sign up soon or more slots may open up for children of faculty and staff, or possibly even the general public.

Got that? Use it or lose it, ASUM student, staff and faculty.

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Shaken Baby Syndrome topic of Great Falls conference

The two-day Family and Community Heath Conference put on by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services starts today in Great Falls, and is bringing in a national expert to talk about how to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.

This is the syndrome that results when an infant is severely or repeatedly shaken. It can cause serious and permanent damage to a baby’s eyes and brain. And it’s a form of child abuse.

The national expert who will be speaking this afternoon in Great Falls is Julie Price, of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the title of her talk is “The Period of PURPLE Crying.”

Here’s a little more background on Price:

Price, of Utah, has 19 years in education, training and program management. In addition to her work with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Price oversees Utah’s Period of PURPLE Crying® hospital-based program. She assists hospital administrators, education personnel and maternity services with nurse training and coordination of the Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention and parent education program.

And here’s a little bit more about the PURPLE Crying program:

The Period of PURPLE Crying® is the phrase used to describe the point in a baby’s life when he or she cries more than at any other time. This period of increased crying is often described as “colic”, but there have been many misunderstandings about what “colic” really is.

The acronym PURPLE is used to describe specific characteristics of an infant’s crying during this phase. The word PERIOD is important because it lets parents know that it is temporary and will come to an end.

P: Peak of crying. A baby may cry more each week. The most at 2 months, then less at 3-5 months.
U: Unexpected. Crying can come and go and there is no clear reason why.
R: Resists soothing. A baby may not stop crying no matter what a parent does.
P: Pain-like face. A crying that may look like the baby is in pain, even when he/ she is not.
L: Long lasting. Crying which lasts as long as five hours or more a day.
E: Evening. A baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

“It may be confusing and concerning to be told a baby ‘has colic’ because it may sound like the baby has an illness or a condition that is abnormal,” says Ann Buss of the DPHHS Family and Community Health Bureau. “Parents and caregivers need to know that what they are experiencing is indeed normal and, although frustrating, is simply a phase in their child’s development that will pass.”

This is important, says DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell, because, “The concept of the Period of Purple Crying is a new way to help parents understand this time in their baby’s life, which is a normal part of every infant’s development. DPHHS is committed to bringing this valuable information to Montanans.”

Here’s more about the presentation:

This presentation is part of an overall DPHHS effort being led by the Montana’s Children Trust Fund of DPHHS to educate families of babies born in Montana about Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma. Recently, the MTCTF distributed 45,000 ‘Crying Cards’ to parents of newborns though hospitals, family and pediatric practices, child care facilities, and groups that offer babysitting classes.

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Montana seeking nominees for Mentor of the Year, Afterschool Provider of the Year

Last year, Missoula’s Del Key was presented with the Montana Mentor of the Year award for his years of volunteer work at Russell Elementary School.

Now, the Montana Attorney General’s Office is once again seeking nominees for the Mentor of the Year and Afterschool Provider of the Year.

I know there are plenty of both in Missoula, so let’s get those nominations in well before the Feb. 28 deadline. Consider it a valentine of sorts for that person who holds a special place in your child’s heart.

Here’s the announcement and the details:

HELENA – Attorney General Steve Bullock on Friday encouraged Montanans to submit nominations for two awards now in their second year.  Bullock initiated the Montana Mentor of the Year and Afterschool Provider of the Year awards in 2010 to recognize outstanding individuals who have made a positive difference in the lives of children.

“We know from research into programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters that youth who are involved in supportive relationships and activities are less likely to be involved in crime, to skip school, and to use drugs and alcohol,” Bullock said.  “Caring mentors and afterschool providers do a fantastic job of keeping kids focused on positive pursuits and out of trouble.”

Since January is National Mentoring Month, Bullock said it is a good time to start thinking about the contribution these individuals make to kids and communities throughout the state.

The Department of Justice will accept nominations for the two awards until February 28 and announce the 2011 winners in March. Nominees will be evaluated based on their specific efforts related to mentoring or afterschool programs, their length of service, and the impact they have had on the lives of others.

Last year’s winners were:

  • Del Key of Missoula, who provided years of service working as a mentor, tutor and friend to over 25 second through fifth graders at Russell Elementary School.
  • Mentor Cory Sonnemann of Butte, a biochemistry student at Montana Tech, who volunteered as a Big Brother as well as a coach for Little Guy Football, a Montana Mind’s Tutor, a Learning Center Tutor, and other activities.
  • Afterschool care provider Cathy Gaiser of Big Fork, the director and co-founder of LEAP (Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership), an afterschool program that provides enriching activities for youth.

The nomination form (PDF) for the awards is available on the Department of Justice website at www.doj.mt.gov. For more information about the awards, contact Department of Justice Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Downs at (406) 444-9869 or by e-mail at kdowns@mt.gov.

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Cyclists conduct fashion experiment for Missoula preschool

There’s a fun story in today’s Missoulian about a “Tweed Ride” organized by a group of local bicyclists to benefit Spirit at Play, a local preschool.

Tweed Ride organizer and preschool teacher Allison Goodwin describes the preschool this way: “Spirit At Play is a small local non-profit preschool that serves over 40 families annually. We’ve been operating for more than 15 years and we are Reggio (Emilia)-inspired (referring to the Italian education philosophy). We believe in an aesthetically pleasing environment in which to focus on children as competent, capable learners.”

The event, which called on participants to wear their most “dapper attire,” attracted more than 50 riders. I can only imagine what the turnout might have been had the cyclists been allowed to wear the more ubiquitous modern bicycle attire – lycra.

– MM

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